iPhone: should I? shouldn’t I?

My mobile handset used to be just what I needed. It’s a phone, with a WAP browser. Basically, it works for making calls and reading my e-mail via OMA – and it fits the full handsfree kit in my car that my work phone uses (yes, I have two phones… one so I can be contacted by friends and family whenever I want and the other so that work colleagues can only call me when I’m working).

But I have been tempted. I’m a geek, and geeks feed on gadgets. And whilst common sense tells me that a Windows Mobile phone would best match my needs, I am seriously tempted by the Apple iPhone, which goes on sale in the UK next week. The trouble is that even hardened Apple fanboys on some of the podcasts that I listen to admit that this is just a first generation device – an iPhone beta if you like – and at £269 (on an 18-month contract at between £35 and £55 a month), it’s expensive – especially without the 3G and GPS that other handsets offer.

I did look at the Nokia N95 but Apple’s decision not to allow their phone to be subsidised by the networks means that other smartphone vendors are pushing up their prices too (thanks for nothing Apple) and Vodafone
wanted over £300 on an 18 month contract, plus an extra £7.50/month for 120MB of data.

My existing Vodafone contract is up in a few days time, so I called them and asked for my PAC code so that, if I do buy an iPhone next week, I can transfer my number to O2. Not surprisingly, Vodafone’s customer retention department wanted me to stick with them (that’s their job). After I rejected their revised offer (“ah, the £300 was retail, but we’re able to make you a better offer”) of an N95 for £170 (still £120 more than it would have cost me a few months ago…), they suggested that if I could source an iPhone from somewhere outside the UK it would work with any UK network (UK models will be locked to O2), and they could offer me another 12 month contract, with lower charges. That sounds good, but it’s a bit underhand of them to offer that solution as I don’t think it will work – this is why:

  • Even though I’m planning to be in the US next week (so picking up US iPhone would be reasonably easy) an unactivated iPhone can’t even perform non-phone related tasks like playing music and videos and activation would require a contract on a network in the country from which it is sourced (i.e. AT&T for a US-sourced phone).
  • Whilst I’m sure that hackers will find a way to unlock the iPhone (again), Apple is playing cat and mouse with them, so the next software upgrade (which I could ignore) would prevent me from using my Vodafone SIM in it (and possibly “brick” the device).
  • In any case, even if I never used the phone with the AT&T SIM once it was activated, I’d have problems opening an account without a US address and I’d be legally bound to a contract.

So, here’s the choice as I see it:

  1. Wait until next Friday and buy an iPhone on O2 with an 18 month contract: Cost £269 + (18 x £35) = £899 (with 200 minutes/200 texts/unlimited data each month).
  2. Buy an iPhone from an Apple store in the United States and use it over here (if it works): Cost £191.66 (at today’s exchange rate) + ((9 x £10) + (3 x £16) + (12 x £7.50)) = £419.66 with 75 minutes/stop the clock/120MB data each month.
  3. (Wait for the next iPhone model/buy something else/do nothing).

So option 2 looks best on paper, but what if it doesn’t work? Does anyone know if I’m right about options for using an unactivated iPhone in the UK?

10 thoughts on “iPhone: should I? shouldn’t I?


  1. And a few minutes after writing this, I found these guys, who are even opeing up an office a few yards from the London Apple Store to offer unlocking services… sounds legit. I just need to know that everything will work for me on Vodafone (apart from the lack of visual voice mail).


  2. Hi Keni,
    Yep, I think that’s what someone showed me last week and it is sweet – can’t find it on the Vodafone website though and other sources look expensive.

    Also looking at the v1615 (have been for months since I first heard about it under NDA ;-) ). Vodafone want £90 on a 24 month contract though or £170 on 18 months.

    (To be honest, if I need an enterprise handset, my employer should be paying for it…)

    M


  3. Why not wait until the iPhone is released in France and get purchase the phone already unlocked?

    BTW, I’ve had a few minutes with an iPhone and I can sum it up in one word: awesome. Now if only it could support Exchange Server I wouldn’t have gone with the TyTN II (which I am enjoying though)


  4. Hi Aaron,
    If they do sell unlocked iPhones in France, it will be interesting to see how that plays out across the rest of the EU with our free trade laws which mean that I can buy a product in any EU member state… although I guess I’d have to go to France to get one (I like France but it’s a long way to go to pick up a phone).

    As I understand it, there will still be some strings attached to the unlocking of a French iPhone (I’ve read one rumour of a €999 cost for the unlocked version, whilst other reports suggest that the phone can be unlocked free of charge after 6 months of operation on a contract). One more comment on a post suggested that Apple and Orange might release the phone locked and let the whole thing go through the courts for a couple of years whilst subscribers still have to pay for their service (sly).

    Mark


  5. Hey Mark,

    The experience was fine, and if your happy to deal with the risks of Apple bricking it, software being a little behind, etc, then sure, unlock it.

    Personally I don’t think Vodafone deserve loyalty from their customers – if I wasn’t in a contract I’d have left Vodafone because their data package is awful. I was going over 120Mb of data before they had a data package!! (not to mention everything else Vodafone do wrong ATM IMHO)

    If I was paying for an iPhone I’d have waited until they officially launched in the UK, and paid the extra to not worry, and never worry…


  6. Hi David,
    Thanks for being so candid. I’m in the States right now and I actually bought an iPhone last night; however after I’d added the sales tax it wasn’t really that much less expensive than a UK model will be after it is launched on Friday, so I’m thinking of returning it unopened and buying one at home, with warranty (there’s no warranty on an unlocked phone, or even on an AT&T phone being used on an authorised network outside its intended market).

    As for Vodafone – after one of the sales people in Vodafone’s customer retention department called me in the middle of the night (he didn’t know that I was 8 timezones away but I had asked him not to call me and after 2 missed calls you might thin he had got the message), I think they may have just lost a customer…

    Mark


  7. I’m quickly coming to that opinion myself (the comment that David mentions from O2’s CEO is available in the Daily Telegraph).

    (As a side comment, yesterday, on the front page of USA Today I saw that Google is finally starting to take the wraps off it’s plans for a phone.)

    So, it looks as if I’ll be buying an iPhone on O2 after all… especially after Saturday’s Financial Times reported O2’s CEO, Matthew Key, as expressing confidence that O2 would get the 3G version of the iPhone, but most interestingly I noted that this device is not expected until the second half of 2008, so it doesn’t sound as if there is too much risk of a new model being released just after I commit myself to 18 months on this one…

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